Culture & Background
South Africa is a very diverse country that speaks 11 official languages, has vibrant cities combining informal Third World settlements with First World hotels and shopping malls, and boasts landscapes ranging from thick bush to lush green mountains, semi-desert plateaus and miles of magnificent sandy beaches. Below is a brief overview of the nation’s cities, populations and diversity.
Tshwane/Pretoria (Admin. Capital)
Cape Town (Legislative Capital)
Bloemfontein (Judicial Capital)
Johannesburg (3.2 million)
Durban (2.5 million)
Cape Town (2.9 million)
Pretoria (2 million)
Nelson Mandela (1 million)
Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, isiZulu, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda and Xitsonga
Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and Western Cape
Christianity (about 80 percent) and African traditional. Small percentages of Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.
Constitutional democracy with a three-tier system: Executive, Legislative and Independent Judiciary.
- When calling in South Africa use country code 27 then 09 to dial out. Three-digit area codes must always be dialed when phoning locally
- When calling to South Africa from the U.S., dial 011, the U.S. exit code (must be dialed first for all international calls made from the USA or Canada), 27 - country code for South Africa, area code - 2 digit area codes, 7 digit phone number
- US to South Africa landlines international dialing format: 011 + 27 + xx + xxx xxxx
Black: 79 percent, White: 9.6 percent, Colured 8.9 percent, Asian: 2.5 percent
*The term colured reers to an ethnic group of mixed-race people who possess the same sub-Saharan African ancestry, but not enough to be considered Black under the law of South Africa
49 million (estimate)
South African Customs
Etiquette and Local Customs
- South Africa is one of the most multicultural countries in the world. In urban areas many different ethnic groups will make up the population. In addition to the indigenous black peoples of South Africa, colonialism and immigration have brought in white Europeans, Indians, Indo-Malays, Chinese and many more.
- South African etiquettes and culture are very diverse, and most South Africans are warm and friendly. One important thought to keep in mind during your travels to South Africa is to remain adaptable.
In South African urban cultures, people usually wear typical Western attire.
- Shake hands upon meeting someone.
- Expect women to greet each other with a kiss on the cheek.
- You may find that South Africans speak rather loudly during a normal conversation.
- Tip 15-20 percent at a restaurant, but check the bill to ensure that the tip has not been included already.
- Tip tour guides and bus drivers at the end of the day. Usually it is R15 (~$2.00) per person on a day tour. The guide and driver will split the tip.
- Tip hotel porters between R2 (~$0.30) and R5 (~$0.70) per bag.
Food & Drink
- Much of South African food is spicy and sometimes hot.
- South African Cuisine is heavily meat based and has spawned the distinctively South African social gathering know as a braai, or barbeque.
- South Africa has also developed as a major wine producer. The Cape Winelands is a region of the Western Cape Province of South Africa and is the largest wine producing region in South Africa. It is divided into six main wine regions, each offering their own unique wine. Stellenbosch wine region is the best known in the Cape and one of the most popular wine regions in South Africa.
South Africa’s national sports are rugby, cricket and soccer. The South African National Soccer Team is known locally as the “Bafana Bafana”.
South African History
After centuries of conflict, South Africa is coming together as a unified nation. The country’s history has been marked by clashes between the Khoikhoi, part of a larger group, the Khoisan, the African farmers who came from the north, and the European settlers who arrived by sea beginning in the 17th Century.
A Chronology of Key Events:
1488: The Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias landed at Mossel Bay.
1652: Hollander Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Table Bay to establish a supplies station for the Dutch East India Company. Soon after, the first slaves, from Dutch settlements in the Far East and from the east coast of Africa were brought in to provide labor.
1690 – 1805: Dutch expansion gradually resulted in clashes with Xhosa (most southerly of the Black groups.) The Napoleonic Wars in Europe brought about a flurry of colonial exchanges.
1816: Shaka became king of the newly formed Zulu nation. The warlike Zulus began to expand and drive other people before them.
1820 – 1834: British settlers arrived in Algoa Bay. Britain abolished slavery throughout the Empire, including South Africa.
1838 – 1854: Various Dutch republics and the British colony of Natal were established on the East Coast.
These were the years of conflict between Boer, Briton & Black.
1867: Diamonds were discovered in the Northern Cape.
1879: The Anglo-Zulu War ended with the British control of the Zulus.
1886: Gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand; Johannesburg was founded.
1899-1902: The South African War.
1910: The South African Union was established, uniting the former republics of the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, and the former British colonies of the Cape and Natal, into one country as a dominion within the British Empire.
From Union to Apartheid
The period from 1910 to 1948 was a momentous one, seeing the development of the Old South Africa and the entry of most of the players in the run-up to what would eventually become a “White” state, with “Black” affairs left to the provincial governments (the two former republics and the two former colonies), a move seen as a fundamental betrayal of Black African aspirations.
1912: The African National Congress (ANC) was established to represent Black African interests.
1913: The Native Land Act limited Black land ownership.
1921: The Communist Party of South Africa was founded.
1930’s: Much legislation separated the races and Blacks were removed from the common voters’ roll in the Cape and the Native Trust and Land Act.
1939 – 45: South Africa joined the allies in WWII.
1948: The National Party defeated the United Party in a general election and the Apartheid era began.
From Apartheid to Insurrection
The time from 1948 to 1976 was a period of Apartheid or “separate racial development”. Apartheid means “separateness” in Afrikaans and the basic concept was to have the various races developing separately, but equally, in their own territory.
1952: The ANC launched its defiance campaign as legislation became more and more repressive.
1960: The Sharpeville massacre; 69 people were killed in a PAC and ANC organized anti-pass laws demonstration.
1961: South Africa’s membership of the Commonwealth was terminated and the ANC’s armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe was established.
1964: The Rivonia Treason Trial ended and Nelson Mandela and many other ANC leaders were sent to Robben Island.
1975: Inkatha, a Zulu cultural/political movement was set up and South Africa became involved in the Angolan War.
1976: The Transkei (Black tribal homelands provided by Apartheid legislation) gained independence. The Soweto Uprising began. This was a revolt by Black school pupils against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction in their schools. This ushered in the end of an era.
From Soweto to Democracy
1976-90: UN instituted an arms embargo; political organizations and newspapers were banned. A White referendum approved limited reforms. The ban was lifted on the ANC, the PAC, SACP, and thirty other opposition groups and released Mandela from prison.
1990 – 1994: The ANC suspended the armed struggle. In 1991 the NP government and the ANC agreed on all-party negotiations; important Apartheid legislation was repealed. 1992, a White referendum gave the go ahead to negotiate a New South Africa. In 1993, Communist Party Secretary General Chris Hani was assassinated by right-wingers and the country came to the brink of civil war, but just in time a transitional constitution was accepted and elections were called for 1994.
1994: The African National Congress, in an alliance with the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions, won South Africa’s first fully democratic elections.
1994: Since 1994, political violence has been drastically reduced. Though the country still struggles with racial issues, political stability has been one of the major achievements of the current government.
1997: In December 1997, Thabo Mbeki assumed the ANC mantle of leadership as Nelson Mandela stepped down as its leader.
1999: Mbeki won the presidency of South Africa after national elections, and the ANC won just shy of a two-thirds majority in parliament.
2004: South Africa celebrated 10 years of freedom from apartheid.
2007: Jacob Zuma was elected President of the ANC.
2009: Jacob Zuma was elected President of South Africa.
2010: South Africa is poised to hold the 2010 FIFA World Cup during June and July of 2010. South Africa has worked hard to achieve the infrastructure needed to host the tournament, and progress has been made, though hurdles still exist.